Thus commenceth the fifth season of this here show. At least I think it is the fifth season. But who’s counting, right? Anyway, we’re back and to kick things off this September, we’ll start in a place where at least some of you have spent a part of your summer as well. And don’t pretend you didn’t. I saw those Luxembourg license plates in Croatia.
Tatjana Cameron a.k.a. Tajči was a mainstay of the terminal state of Yugoslav pop-music industry. She burst onto the scene in the late 80’s and hit her peak soon thereafter. Namely, she represented the country at the only Eurovision song contest held in Yugoslavia in 1990. But the story of Tajči began long before that.
Born in 1970 Tatjana Matejaš made her first music appearance at the tender age of four. Long before she took the stage name that made her a household name for a generation. She took part at a children music festival ZagrebFest, both as as a solo act and as a part of an ensemble cast. History doesn’t record how she fared. But apparently she was good enough to start an acting as well as a singing career.
Tatjana spent most of her teenage years successfully juggling her school obligations and nascent musical career. Having a supportive family helped, of course, but then there were also her undeniable talent and intelligence. One of her early successes was a colab with a popular Bosnian band Mata Hari. Together they recorded a track titled Sedamnajst mi je godina, an admittedly somewhat corny and cliché tune about, well, being seventeen years old.
Following her early breakthrough, Tatjana Matejaš moved briefly to London, where Richard Branson himself was reportedly interested in signing her up for Virgin, but for various reasons the deal didn’t pan out. She returned to Croatia and recorded an full-length pop album and adopted Tajči, the stage name she will be remembered by. And it just so happened that a few months before that, Riva, another Croatian band, won the 1989 Eurovision song contest, bringing the event to Yugoslavia for the first and – well – only time a year later.
Tajči’s self-titled album was an instant hit and her representing the Eurosong host country was almost a given. And seeing as the event was held in Zagreb, the 1990 Eurovision song contest was almost a completely Croatian affair. But since Eurovision rules demand that the song be an unreleased original, Tajči and her producers reworked a hit track from her album. And so Hajde da beremo jagode / Let’s have strawberries became Hajde da ludujemo / Let’s have a party.
If you spent any time in Croatia this summer, you’re almost guaranteed to have heard this track, even though it is 33 years old. Back then, Tajči placed a decent seventh in the final ranking. But by the time the event took place, the country she represented was already bursting at the seams. Only a few weeks after the dearly departed Toto Cutugno won the contest with a song about a united Europe, Yugoslavia officially started going to hell in a handcart. And as war broke out for real, Tajči left Croatia for United States.
Move to the US
In the US, her career took a much more serious turn, as she expanded her acting skills and appeared in a series of stage productions, including a production of the Phantom of the Opera. Known as Tatiana Cameron after she got married, she continues to write and produce music both in the US and Croatia. Overall, she released as many as eighteen albums and continues to write and produce music and even wrote a full-length musical in 2010, titled My Perfectly Beautiful Life.
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of, you guessed it, the Balkans. Forget gusle and tamburice, this show is about rock, pop and a sense of humour. Well, at least there’s guitars. On air most Tuesdays in a new-and-improved time-slot at 1100 hrs. Usually. Your train conductor is Aljaž (aka @pengovsky) who once did the world a solid and decided never to sing again in public. Which is why he ended up doing radio.
TuesdaysWith : Aljaž Every Tuesday at 10.00
Balkan Express takes weekly trips into contemporary musical production of the Balkans.